How Small Is Infinitesimal?
Will Lorna be able to handle another baby and complete her doctoral program?
I was about two months pregnant. Chuck was elated and I was deflated (before I started to visibly inflate). Just before Thanksgiving 1988, I was going to San Francisco to a Sociology conference and Chuck made plans to come with me. He wanted to surprise me with a “proper” honeymoon five years after our wedding. One week prior to the trip, I started to “spot”–medical jargon for ruining the few underwear I owned that still had some elastic sass. Baby Doc advised against flying with or without the benefit of an airplane. Honeymoon #2 was cancelled.
We decided spend Thanksgiving with Chuck’s family, a day’s car trip. Sometime between the turkey dinner and the pecan pie, I felt crampy. Too many mashed potatoes, perhaps? I went to the bathroom. Being a female and occupying the bathroom for more than 20 minutes without bath salts and candles sent up all kinds of red flags. Various people tentatively knocked and asked if everything was okay. I imagined a small crowd forming outside the door when I replied, “I’m not sure.” Did I plug the toilet with a ginormous turd? Did I binge and was now purging? Did I read something disparaging about the poor job prospects for sociology Ph.D.s in the Reader’s Digest left in the magazine rack beside the toilet?
Chuck finally ventured into the bathroom. He found me sitting on the toilet, pale, and staring blankly at my chubby thighs. No husband should ever have to see his wife like that. I told him that there was a lot of blood and…a blob. Not one to panic, he assured me that everything was fine. He called Baby Doc. I kept bleeding and panicked enough for both of us. Even though I didn’t want to be pregnant and do the Mommy-thing again, I didn’t want to kill my baby, either. I was such a Catholic—guilty no matter what.
Baby Doc confirmed I had miscarried. Chuck was crest-fallen and I pretended to be, but was okay with it. The
blob fetus was so small; it was infinitesimal compared to a regulation baby so I wasn’t emotionally attached. Baby doc ran a hormone test just to be sure; it indicated I was still pregnant. Huh? Another test. Same result. A sonogram. Baby #2 was actually twins. One aborted naturally and one was lodged in my right Fallopian Tube, requiring emergency surgery before something exploded. Emergency surgery it was. The alternative—my parts exploding—I considered only briefly, thinking that twins would stalk me and I would become a baby machine.
I had seven miscarriages during the sex-for-reproduction years of our marriage. Unlike many actors on daytime TV dramas, I never reacted with grief-induced illnesses and months of commercially-interrupted catastrophizing about my miscarriages (no disrespect intended to those parents who genuinely suffer the loss of a pregnancy, no matter how early). I felt each miscarriage was evidence of someone “upstairs” keeping the world safe from an unmotherly mother.
I dubbed Alex the miracle child. My body had only one child-birth experience in it. I’m glad I had only one child. If those twins had “taken,” I might very well be sitting in a sanitarium, heavily medicated, and receiving visitors every other Sunday.
- I had a dissertation to write and defend.
- I was working full-time as a researcher for the nursing home.
- Alex reached his “Terrible Twos” about 6 months early and planned on extending it.
- I was recovering from emergency surgery and dealing with all kinds of conflicting emotions—mine, Chuck’s, mine and Chuck’s. The only way to cope was living on auto-pilot: deal with the day-to-day stuff and stuff the weighty stuff away.
Also happening was:
- My dog died.
- I picked up the linguistic tic “y’all,” convincing myself I was a character in my own Country-Western song. This theme will return later in the story.
- We decided to move back “home.” This meant completing my dissertation long-distance. The chances of completing a doctorate are small to begin with. Layer on raising a child, moving away from my scholarly support network, nesting a new home, and starting a new job; my chances became infinitesimal.